A draw and a win for Chris
Nobody bottled it last night but voters probably didn't walk away with much new information or inspiration. David Cunliffe made an appearance sporting some fetching facial hair.
Mōrena, and welcome to The Bulletin for Wednesday, September 20, by Anna Rawhiti-Connell. Presented in partnership with Z Energy.
In today’s edition: petrol prices forecast to rise to as much as $3.50 by Christmas; first polling out for one of the most highly-contested Māori seats; $13m raised via the government’s Cyclone Gabrielle appeal will not be distributed until 2024; but first, all the verdicts on last night’s debate
A civilised dual
Two men named Chris met last night, on the 130th anniversary of women's suffrage, in a purple-lit studio, to thrash it out in the first leaders’ debate of the 2023 election campaign. Did we learn a lot? Not really. The only new policy that got dropped was Labour leader Chris Hipkins saying he would ban fizzy drinks in high schools. To catch up, here’s our live blog from last night. By way of an upside, it provided a good antidote to claims that this election is the dirtiest and most negative yet. The leaders might get asides in on the campaign trail, there might be MPs going rogue on Facebook and Twitter and the attack ads might be, at best, on par with attack ads gone by, but the debate was less pistols at dawn and more of a fairly civilised dual between two men who are quite alike.
Nobody needs any more rugby analogies in their post-debate assessment after last night, so I will stick with formal debating language. By and large, the adjudicators i.e. a bunch of people from The Spinoff including me, and other media commentators are calling it a draw as a standalone event but a win for National leader Christopher Luxon in the broader context of the campaign. Mad Chapman actually called the win for former Labour leader David Cunliffe who participated in the post-debate panel sporting some fetching facial hair. According to the New Zealand Schools’ Debate Council, there’s no such thing as a draw in debating and a winner must be declared. All five adjudicators from the Herald (paywalled) gave the debate to Luxon but its assessment opens with the Herald’s political editor Claire Trevett calling it a “snoozefest” so that’s damning with faint praise. Serial protester/gatecrasher, Angry Fence Man aka Karl Mokaraka was outside the studio at the start of the night and the Media Insider, Shayne Currie, rounds out his verdict by suggesting he suspects even he gave up and went home before the end of the debate. RNZ’s Jane Patterson described the debate as a low-energy affair with no one being able to a clear victory. As Newsroom’s Mark Jennings notes, the leaders themselves both gave themselves an 8 out 10 for their performances. Jacinda Ardern and Bill English gave themselves a 6-7 out of 10 in 2017 in the Newshub leaders debate.
Many were surprised to hear from Luxon that National invented the concept of “by Māori, for Māori”, although as Newsroom’s Jo Moir writes, Luxon later clarified that by saying National was a “big supporter of it” and his comments were in the context of when National was last in government. Mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga very obviously predate the last National government and the anglicised “by Māori, for Māori” phrase has been in use for quite some time. Hipkins, a former health minister, was his most animated on questions around the Māori Health Authority, co-governance and health inequities. Luxon also had to quickly clarify a comment during the debate that suggested he supported free lunches for all students in state schools. Personally, I’d like to see both leaders stop suggesting renting is a halfway house on the way to home ownership and deal with the reality that one-third of the country rents. The Greens were quick to whip a tweet out reminding people of their strong rental policy platform.
Cost of living still the number one issue for New Zealanders
We didn’t get a lot from the leaders on the cost of living last night. Luxon quipped about Labour’s GST-free fruit and vege policy by saying “beans and carrots” twice. Bananas also got a look in which might have been the most bananas moment of the evening. There was some sparring on the efficiency of National’s tax cuts, talk of how better off median wage earners would be and Luxon, quoting the Little River Band, told a young hospitality worker who probably isn't earning a median wage that “help was on its way”. Both leaders contributed to the fallacy that recycling is a way to reduce emissions. The latest Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor was released last night and once again identified the cost of living as the key concern for New Zealanders. The release isn't great news for Labour with New Zealanders identifying National as the party best equipped to deal with inflation and the cost of living, and seven other issues. On that, economist Shamubeel Eaqub had more firepower in comments he made recently to The Guardian, criticising both parties’ platforms and telling The Guardian “You’re not going to be able to solve a global inflation problem with local solutions.” “Do we have a competitive economy, competitive markets, and a competition authority that’s really strong and powerful? The answer is we don’t, but that stuff is not sexy and it’s not a vote-winner,” he said.
Finally, if our live blog and quick-fire reckons aren’t enough for you, you can chase all this by tuning into the Gone by Lunchtime Megapod from 9am today. Ben Thomas and Annabelle Lee-Mather kick the day off with host Toby Manhire and then I’ll be joining Manhire, Mad Chapman and Duncan Greive around 10am this morning to chat about the debate. Manhire will be live-streaming all day until 9pm. The guest list is impressive. It could be Manhire’s biggest achievement of 2023 or his deepest regret. Tune in on thespinoff.co.nz to find out.
As the campaign lurches into blur mode, today we’re trying something new, strange and probably dangerous: an epic livestreamed Megapod – a full 12 hours of Gone By Lunchtime from 9am. Toby Manhire will be joined by Ben Thomas and Annabelle Lee-Mather, as well as a parade of high-profile candidates and commentators, to debate, discuss and tip into delirious mode ahead of the 2023 election. Join us at thespinoff.co.nz today from 9am-9pm.
For Election 2023 coverage, follow Gone By Lunchtime wherever you get your podcasts.
Petrol prices forecast to rise to as much as $3.50 by Christmas
As RNZ’s Nona Pelletier reports, the cost of petrol is forecast to rise to as much as $3.50 a litre for 91 octane by Christmas as rising oil prices and a weak New Zealand dollar put pressure on prices. The AA’s principal motoring affairs policy advisor Terry Collins said “The premium grades are already over $3.50 in some places. We're getting close to $3.12 for average price of 91 (octane). I'd imagine it would be over $3.20 within about a fortnight and we could be by Christmas closer to $3.50 than $3.” As Stuff’s Susan Edmunds writes, the previous 91 price peak was about $3.12 a litre, not including the Auckland regional fuel tax of 10c per litre, and “commentators expect that record to be broken soon.”
Polling of the Te Tai Hauāuru seat reveals a very close race
It’s been billed as one of the most nail-biting races among the seven Māori seats but last night’s Whakaata Māori polling has Labour's Soraya Peke-Mason ahead of Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer in Te Tai Hauāuru. Peke-Mason is on 34% while Ngarewa-Packer is on 29%. National MP Harete Hipango is the party’s first candidate in 20 years to run in a Māori electorate and landed on 12%, with 16% of voters undecided. More than 8,000 voters switched to Māori roll earlier this year, taking the number of Māori roll voters to over a quarter of a million. If you missed Charlotte Muru-Lanning’s profile of Ngarewa-Packer yesterday, I commend it to you this morning, especially if you love brilliant little details like what the Te Pāti Māori co-leader’s ringtone is. Haimona Gray wrote a fantastic profile of the hot seat a couple of weeks ago, explaining that it’s large and tribally diverse and there’s “less ability to have those deep community connections which matter more in Māori seats where campaign budgets are stretched and words spreads across the ‘kūmara vine’ faster than on social media.” Historically, it’s flipped between parties a bit. Tukoroirangi Morgan won it for NZ First in 1996, Nanaia Mahuta took it for Labour in 1999 and Tariana Turia, as the 2002 election incumbent, won it again as leader of Te Pāti Māori at a by-election in 2004 after she voted against foreshore and seabed legislation and resigned as a Labour MP. Labour's Adrian Rurawhe won the seat in 2014 and retained it in 2017, but he made the call to run list-only for this election after becoming speaker of the house.
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Click and Collect
More than $13m raised via the government’s Cyclone Gabrielle appeal will not be distributed until 2024 as community leaders call for help now
Satellite data shows that Antarctic sea ice is well below any previously recorded winter level
Relations between Canada and India are extremely tense right now with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau saying there is “credible evidence” India is responsible for the alleged assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Canadian Sikh leader. Canada has expelled an Indian diplomat and India has retaliated by expelling a senior Canadian diplomat.
Click and Elect
Pretty funny write up from the Herald’s Adam Pearse as David Seymour goes searching for tales of crime and economic woe in Remuera
Labour dumps prison population reduction target
Green Party wants free lunches expanded to 365,000 children
Politicians were put in the hot seat by young people who’ve experienced what it’s like to be in state care
The political party founded by conspiracy theorist Liz Gunn has failed to register nearly all of its candidates
A new episode of Youth Wings is out. Jas McIntosh first joined Young Labour because of Jacinda Ardern, but has since found her own purpose even without the leader who started it all.
Stewart Sowman-Lund profiles Matt Doocey, National MP and possible future mental health minister. Joel MacManus talks to Celia Wade-Brown, the former Wellington mayor set to swap the bush for the beltway. Gabi Lardies investigates whether digital communication is useful for holding sexual abusers to account. A young public servant who bought a house for her parents describes life with a solo mortgage for The Cost of Being. Ben Thomas waxes truly lyrical about Angey Fence Man, aka Karl Mokaraka.
Ethan De Groot banned for two games after his high tackle on Namibia’s Adriaan Booysen during the All Blacks’ 71-3 victory in Toulouse
An environment ripe for exploitation
Just want to commend this investigation from TVNZ’s Kristin Hall to you. Hall has spoken to women who have been trying to have a baby and have turned to DIY sperm donors. The shortage of donors in New Zealand drives some people to seek private sperm donors. Some “donors” are using communications with women to try and coerce them into having sex, claiming (falsely) that natural insemination is better than artificial. It’s an area that’s completely unregulated in this country, where the hopeful spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatment and are extremely vulnerable.
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